The remoteness of the Arctic region can be costly and stunt economic opportunities, a new path north from Canada is currently being built to aid trade, but not everyone agrees that it’s a road to progress. CCTV America’s Sean Callebs reports, in his latest installment of our series: On Thin Ice.
Two of the trademarks of living high above the Arctic Circle are unrelenting cold, and the remoteness of the region. Way up in Canada’s Northwest Territories sits the town of Inuvik, with close to 3,500 people live 200-kilometers (124 miles) north of the Arctic Circle.
Vince Sharpe has made and lost several fortunes since moving to Inuvik in the late 60s to strike it rich in the oil industry. Looking out over the frozen Mackenzie River from his porch. Sharpe says he has seen the town change a lot, but he wonders where the next economic infusion will come from.
“When I first got here, there wasn’t a two story building on main street. Like we had mud was the street, and we has wooden sidewalks,” Sharpe said.
It may appear as a snow-covered asphalt highway, but the road is actually the frozen Mackenzie River. Every year from December until April, it is the only way people can drive from the town of Inuvik to the town of Tuktoyaktuk, a little village known as the end of the road on the Arctic Ocean.
Construction is bringing changes to the region. In the 1980s, the offshore oil industry thrived in the Beaufort Sea -and supporters want that development back. The 140-kilometer (86.992 miles) all season road from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk — or Tuk as it’s known — is still a couple of years from completion.
Kurt Wainman of Northwind Industries is overseeing development.
“Oh, this is a… this would be a lifelong pride for me — it’s history right, building a beautiful road on our land,” said Wainman.
Merven Gruben, heads up construction. He calls this the road to resources.
“It’ll just open up everything. It’ll open up, not only for the people of Tuk, but for the rest of Canada to come up, the rest of the world to come up to Tuk,” Gruben said.
“Our community is pro-development. We want things to happen in a positive way just to make sure it is done right. There is no way we are all going back into trapping… A majority of us don’t live off the land.”
Currently, with no roads leading in or out of Tuk – prices are ridiculously high in this village. It costs about $10 for a bag of apples, $11 for milk, and $14 for cereal.
Nellie Cornoyea, the head of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, hopes the all-season road will drop prices and open up the area for more business.
“In the Arctic, it’s always going to be the high cost of living,” Nellie Cornoyea, of the Inuvialuitt Regional Corporation said. “The transportation of bringing in food to communities that are isolated without a road, or without transportation access other than maybe once a year by sea or on a continuous basis by plane.”
But some wonder if the road will actually bring progress. Many fear a loss of culture and heritage as the road brings in the curious, and business development.
“My main concern is part of the section of the road is very close to our traditional spring geese hunting, and ice fishing lake, and that’s going to ope it up,” James Pokiak, a Tuktoyaktuk resident said.
Wilson Center’s David Biette discusses climate change
CCTV America interviewed David Biette, the director of the Polar Initiative at the Wilson Center, a public policy think tank, about how climate change is impacting the Arctic.